Rocco Mediate burst onto the Champions Tour scene this season with a flurry. He shot a second-round 61 and won the first event he entered.
The comfort level hasn’t wavered since.
Mediate held court with reporters for more than 20 minutes at TPC Twin Cities on Wednesday, discussing topics with a silver tongue ranging from physics to marriage to golf history to Minnesota’s lakes.
Minnesota has become Mediate’s second home since becoming engaged to St. Louis Park native Jessica Somers. He lives part-time in the west metro and calls the area “Pittsburghy” — an endearing nod to his hometown.
And wouldn’t you know it, Mediate on Wednesday played with former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura in the 3M Championship pro-am.
“We had a ball,” Mediate said. “I had no idea I was playing with him, so when he came up and introduced himself, I thought, ‘This is going to be a good day already.’ ”
Mediate happily posed for photos with the pro-am group, his arms over the shoulders of his wide-smiling partners. When their round finished Mediate excitedly talked of plans to give the former governor some golf advice in the weeks to come at Golden Valley Country Club or back at the TPC.
“If you’re taught the right thing, you’re going to get better fast,” said Mediate, who vowed to lower Ventura’s handicap from 15 to single digits. “As far as the Gov is concerned, I told him, ‘Dude, you’ve been an athlete your whole life. You can do this stuff. Easily.’
“He’s a psycho golfer, plays all the time. If I give him the right things to work on, he’s going to get better by accident.”
Mediate also raved about two of his adopted state’s golfing icons: Tom Lehman and Tim Herron.
“Forget about the golf — Tommy is just a great guy who has done a lot for a lot of people and he hasn’t changed,” Mediate said.
Of Herron, Mediate said: “Want to know one bad thing about Tim Herron? He still doesn’t know how good he is.”
While Mediate’s time Wednesday was mostly fun and games, he’s a student of the game ready to get down to business in Friday’s first round.
“A lot of people will be out to watch,” he said. “A lot of our friends — my new friends.”
Like many players coming to the 3M Championship from the Senior British Open, Colin Montgomerie flew from London to Chicago on Tuesday. But unlike many — any? — he rented a car to complete the journey.
“It was a wee bit further than I thought,” Montgomerie said. “But I was already on the road and just kept going. A lot of ‘me’ time.”
Montgomerie used the 400 -or-so miles to think about his putting, which he said has been off since joining the Champions Tour in June.
He spent a considerable amount of time on the practice green Wednesday.
“If you’re not putting well, you can forget it,” Montgomerie said, nodding to his putter resting nearby. “I’ve been told to love it, but if you don’t see it tomorrow morning you’ll know I’ve fallen out of love with it and it’s in about three pieces.”
Don Berry’s reward for claiming one of the final two spots into the 3M Championship field after Tuesday afternoon’s event qualifier? A 7 a.m. pro-am tee time Wednesday.
Not that Berry minded.
“I’d just be at work anyway,” the Edinburgh USA club pro said.
Instead he’s guaranteed another paycheck this weekend in the no-cut tournament.
“I know I can play with these guys — most of them,” said Berry, who collected $6,300 last year for his 46th-place finish as a sponsor’s exemption. “I feel like I semi-belong.”
Friday’s first round features a wave of notable groups. Lehman is paired with Roger Chapman and Mark Calcavecchia at 11:20 a.m. Hale Irwin, Tom Kite and John Cook tee off two groups later, followed by Mark Wiebe, Jay Haas and Nick Price at noon and Kenny Perry, Craig Stadler and Mediate at 12:10 p.m.